When doors open, step right through. That’s the mantra of Orange-based sonographer Shelly Finch, who is a great advocate for both interior design, country living and the options available to people who choose to live regionally.
By day, Shelly Finch is a highly motivated rural sonographer, working in a private practice in the NSW regional city of Orange and recently completing a PhD focusing on vascular ultrasound. She’s a passionate advocate for providing high-level medical services to remote and rural areas, helped establish a consultancy for visiting vascular surgeons from Sydney and is deeply committed to providing the same level of care for her remote patients as city people experience.
After hours, however, the creative side of the mother of three now-adult children unfurls as Shelly indulges her “other passions” for interior design, gardening, bush walking, mountain biking, singing and playing the piano.
Shelly spent most of her childhood on a sheep and cattle farm at Larras Lee in the rolling hills of the NSW central-west. She counts herself lucky to have completed all her schooling at the local public school and then moved to Orange where she did her hospital-based nursing training. Upon graduation, she worked in cardiology and did an echocardiology course by correspondence through Greenland Hospital in Auckland, New Zealand.
“I went over to NZ for a week of exams,” Shelly says. “It was quite a juggle as my youngest child was only 18 months old at the time. I was fortunate that an Orange-based nuclear medicine physician, Dr Sharyn Pussell, offered me a general ultrasound training position. Although she has now retired, she has trained and mentored me throughout my career.”
Shelly completed a diploma of applied science, then a masters in medical ultrasound before starting her doctorate. In her “spare” time between work and study, she supervised the creation of her country-style home on the western periphery of the service centre of an agricultural region famed for its orchards, fine wines and great dining scene.
“I based the design on the homestead I had grown up in,” she says. “I sketched a plan to reflect my heritage with a broad surrounding verandah, pressed-metal feature walls and even a space at the entrance to incorporate a chandelier my grandmother imported from Italy in the 1970s. Then I set to work on the grounds, building one garden room at a time.”
While the house was built 16 years ago, following her divorce and with only herself and her poodle, Poppy, to please, Shelly has given it a makeover to make the spaces more liveable and exercise her flair for interior design.
When it came to the garden, Shelly admits to strong influence from Victorian landscape designer Paul Bangay and adds that she’s not keen on curves. Instead, she’s created a parterre garden with three layers of hedging, rose gardens and multiple other garden rooms, each with focal points such as statuary or water features to catch the attention and complement the elegant formality of the spaces.
“I look at it now and realise it’s exceeded my expectations,” she says. “The garden transforms with each season and I must add that credit for much of its upkeep goes to my father, Kevin Fletcher. He devotes at least an hour a day to keeping the hedges manicured.”
Shelly says she’s grateful on a daily basis for the opportunities she has as a regional resident. “I’ve never felt the urge to move to the city,” she says. “I’ve had many trips to present papers on my research both in Australia and America and plenty of job offers to move, but I’ve never been tempted to leave. I believe country people are genuinely more caring about their community and they make time to help others.
When I was undertaking data collection for my research, I had to ask for participants and people were so generous. Some of them drove hours from places as far away as Warren and Bourke to be part of my studies.”
Now that she has time to take a step back from study, Shelly has started an online interior design course created by Darren Palmer. Taking it easy, it seems, is not in her DNA as she has recently bought another block of land on an estate at the edge of town. She has big plans to build a new home when she sells her current place. “It’s a beautiful location with great views,” she says. “It will be very different and more contemporary from this house. While some people might wonder why I’d want to move when I’ve finally got everything here to my satisfaction, but I love the challenge of a new project. I can’t wait to start.” ac
Photography by Susan Gosper